Trump Talks to Taiwan

So everyone (read: left wing wackadoodles and Communist China lackeys) are having fits because Trump spoke with Taiwan’s President.

You know what I think? Good. About time an American President stopped molly coddling China. They want to play with the big boys then they better learn to deal with the consequences. Besides where were these whiners when the Obama administration authorized billions in weapons sales to Taiwan? They don’t consider that upsetting the Chinese but the president-elect talking to one who will soon be a political peer somehow sparks notions of war?

The Taiwan issue has been a topic that has irked me for some time, namely the notion that a foreign (enemy) power (China) is dictating who we can be allied with (Taiwan). It’s time American politicians do what they’re supposed to: look out for America’s interests, not foreign powers. You can have differences and not have hostilities or open conflict.

While I still hav emy doubts about Trump, if he’s going to truly approach international politics with a different perspective than the past half century I’m all for it. The status quo only keeps the elite and corrupt in power and the world under their thumb. Time to shake things up and maybe approach things unhindered by “tradition” or appeasement.

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Cecil the Lion Thoughts

It saddens me that such a magnificent animal was killed in such a terrible fashion.

Now before anyone flies off the handle, let me clear about some things. In general I support hunters and hunting, but I do so based on some principles hunters in my family have had for generations:

  1. Hunt only what you need. Do not overhunt
  2. You eat what you kill and not let go to waste the rest of the remains.
  3. Respect the animal you hunt. Do not let an animal suffer.
  4. Do not hunt endangered or near endangered animal species.
  5. No trophy hunting.

The final two principles came about in more recent years as a result of endangered species populations and a general disgust for those who hunt solely for trophies. That said, we’ll move…

I know some question the outrage over a lion’s death. Even with my opposition to trophy hunting and the hunting of endangered species in general, I too would question the outrage over killing a lion. What makes this one different for many is  what information we have at this point: Cecil was apparently lured from the preserve, by all accounts made to suffer for 40 hours from a man obviously not skilled enough to track and kill a lion properly, and the fact the hunters then attempted to destroy the collar Cecil war as part of ongoing study.

In my opinion, the group of hunters actions before, during, and after the hunt and subsequent uproar are those of poachers, not legitimate hunters and guides. So I can understand the outrage quite plainly.

My hope is those involved are prosecuted by the Zimbabwean government and that this incident inspires more people to look into ways to end trophy hunting, protect and help repopulate endangered and near endangered species, and in general look for ways to preserve our planet’s wildlife and habitats for the enjoyment of all.

Civilian Airliner Shot Down Over Ukraine

As those reading this post know by now a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian border.

My condolences to all those killed in this tragedy,

Who’s Responsible

It is currently unknown who shot the plane down: the Russians, the Russian backed insurgents, or the Ukrainians. All have access to weapons capable of taking down the airliner.

While Ukraine has anti-aircraft weapons as well, but has no reason to be firing them at large planes since the rebels have no such aircraft at their disposal. Hence, I am more dismissive of the idea that the Ukrainian military shot down the plane, as Russia claims

Given recent activities in the area (namely the rebels shooting at and shooting down Ukrainian aircraft) I believe it was in fact the insurgents using Russian supplied equipment like the Buk missile system, which does have the capacity to reach the cruise altitude the Malaysian Airliner was said to be at. I also base this on the rebels own claims on a social networking site of shooting down an aircraft around the same time as MH-17 went down, post which later were deleted once it became clear a civilian airliner had been shot down.

So at this point, I blame the insurgent separatists and, ultimately, Vladimir Putin for instigating the military crisis in Ukraine through the invasion of Crimea and Ukraine, supplying rebels with weapons, and fomenting his pan-Slavic ethnocentric ultra-nationalism in the region.

What Should Be Done

Regardless of who is responsible for the attack, every effort (including military means if need be) should be made in ending the rebels assaults in Ukraine and bring those responsible for killing hundreds of innocent passengers on the plane to justice. I know that isn’t likely, given Putin is already spinning the blame to everyone else but his own disastrous policy in the region. If it turns out the Russian (or even Ukrainian) military is directly involved in attack, there needs to be some serious repercussions. Repercussions along the lines of a ban on all travel to and from the offender nation (or their sponsor), an world wide embargo on products, a rapid deployment of EU and NATO forces to all nations to form a buffer between the conflicting sides, stripping away of all international economic and sporting events, and so forth. In other words, no more weak willed verbal rebukes but tangible punishments that hurt those committing these acts.

What Will Be Done

Sadly, with our current president whose early thought this event was: “It looks like it may be a terrible tragedy”, I suspect nothing. I think Obama was channeling George W. there. “May be”? Seriously? Regardless of how the plane went down it is a tragedy.

Obama has shown himself to be spineless in the past in a whole manner of violence and conflicts erupting across the face of the planet so I expect little to nothing to be done.

World Cup 2014 Thoughts: US Men’s Team

I have to say that I think the U.S. Men’s National Team did decently this time around in the World Cup. They still had some moments of their past mediocrity but in general they acquitted themselves well in a very competitive group. It was called the Group of Death with good reason after all. At least I didn’t have a moment as I’ve in previous World Cups where I thought the Women’s National Team would make a better showing against the other nation’s men’s teams. (Don’t think the WNT is good? Check their record compared to the MNT.)

So while still scratching my head in puzzlement over the absence of Donovan from the roster and the unfortunate injuring of Altidore I think overall the USMNT is on its way to improving it’s international competiveness. For the team they have much to look forward to in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia (if it remains there, but that furball of a mess is another issue).

For now I shall go on to supporting the remaining teams I favor: Germany and Columbia.

U.S. Aircraft Carrier to Head to Gulf

I get a strange set of irony in hearing the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier is being ordered to the Persian Gulf due to the rise of the ISIS terrorist group and it’s drive to topple the Iraqi government in Baghdad. This is especially so given the virulence of some pro-Obama anti-war towards the members of the Bush clan (admittedly their mindless ravings mostly aimed at the junior George W. rather than the senior George H.W.).

Perhaps more ironic is Iran, whose nation’s government despises everything that is the United States, has indicated that it is willing to work with the U.S. to combat ISIS.

But on a more serious note, it is concerning to see a regional war potentially cropping up in the region. A regional war that will not have clearly defined borders, opponents, or even objectives:

  • The Peshmerga (Kurdish forces) are reportedly solidifying their hold over the Kurdish region of Iraq as the Iraqi’s military and security forces pull out in the face of the ISIS assault and potential grab for Baghdad. I suspect given these events the Kurds are going to be even more emboldened to maintain or even expand their autonomy and military capabilities from external forces such as ISIS, Iran, Syria and Turkey.
  • Iran’s sudden involvement is not that surprising given they’re a Shia country where as ISIS is a Sunni based group. Other than not wanting the rise of a Sunni run government in Iraq I doubt the Iranian government cares much about their neighbors in anything other than in terms of controlling them for Iran’s benefit.
  • Iraq. I can’t say I’m surprised at the sudden rise of Sunni and ISIS over the discrimination Sunni’s have faced since the fall of Hussein. (Note that I am not too sympathetic to the Sunni’s given their own shoddy treatment of Shia’s and other non-Sunni’s during the Baath Party’s reign.) Ultimately this is a culmination of the hatred Iraqi Sunni and Shia have for one another for centuries, a hatred stoked by more recent decades of abuses aimed at one another. ISIS (a Wahhabi based group) feeds off of this with the idea that they will be victorious; beginning the first leg of their plan to create a new (allegedly sunni) caliphate in the region.
  • Syria. There’s not much really to say other than what’s happening there is a result of decades of the Assad’s and the Baath Party’s manipulation of the region and it’s people. ISIS has been successful in much of its campaign in Syria giving them a strong base from which to launch further attacks deeper into Syria and Iraq.

 

Crimean Russians Vote

So Crimean Russians voted to leave Ukraine today. No surprise there given that 60% of Crimea is Russian. My problem rises with a number of issues/questions over this supposed “democratic” vote and the legitimacy of the results. Too many of these issues are reminiscent of what typical dictatorships do when they attempt cover their actions under the guise of democracy.

  1. Russian military occupation of Crimea. That alone invalidates the vote in my opinion, especially without neutral observers to watch over the process during such a highly propagandized time.
  2. Lack of international observers from neutral countries (say from Africa or Asia). I laugh at the notion that the observer from Serbia are even remotely thought of as neutral. Serbia in general still resents the breakup of Yugoslavia and their loss of influence over the surrounding regions, blaming the EU and NATO.
  3. The swiftness of the vote, without any effort at real debate and discussion, just fear mongering and Russian nationalist rhetoric.
  4. Silencing of non-Russian controlled or dominated news sources and outlets.
  5. The “95%” pro-Russian vote, considering Russians only make up 60% of the population. The remaining 40% non-Russians made it clear they distrusted Russians given past oppression and current harassment by Russian troops in Crimea and Ukraine’s borders. Even then, noting the opposition in Russia to what Putin is doing in Crimea makes it clear even Russians do not whole heartedly agree with what is happening. So 95% support….no. Reads like the old Soviet era propaganda crap.
  6. 83% turnout. Maybe amongst Crimean Russians but I doubt that was the case for Ukrainians and Tartars given overt Russian nationalists and Russian troops intimidating presence. Again, sounds like good ol’ Soviet era propaganda.

So the vote went the way everyone expected, and only Russia will acknowledge as legitimate. I suspect this will just lead to Russia becoming more isolated and former Soviet states eagerly looking to align with one another, the EU, the US, and NATO to bolster political, economic, and most importantly in the face of Russian militarism and pan-Slavic nationalism, military cooperation. Even China while not openly going against Russia they didn’t support Russia at the U.N. this past week in move that subtly shows their disapproval of both sides actions in Ukraine.

I suspect we’ll get the usual huff and puff from Russia over the sanctions that will be put on them in the short term but long term who knows. Depends on if Putin is stupid enough to follow is pan-Slavic nationalists of the cliff into oblivion by trying to start a war to annex Ukraine or other former Soviet states. Right now I don’t see that immediately happening, but you never know. Most Russian leaders aren’t known for diplomacy or restraint.

As an aside, I hope Putin realizes the potential disaster he may have just unleashed on Russia by following in the footsteps of Hitler in using ethnocentric policies to justify his (as the Russians used to like call it) adventurism. By claiming the invasion of Ukraine was justified to protect Russians, he has now made legitimate any ethnic groups (i.e. Chechens, Ossetians, Tartars, et al) claim in Russia that they can secede from the so called Russian Federation for the exact same reason. And possibly have other neighboring countries invade to “protect” these ethnicities as well using the same or similar justifications.

Russia siezes Crimea

Sadly Putin continues his imperialist intentions towards Ukraine by sending troops into the Crimea region, in essence setting up a de facto puppet state for Russia there ahead of elections that were moved up by Russian nationalists. So the question is: now what?

For the world, it’s about holding Russia accountable for its violation of international law and territorial sovereignty of a foreign state. Those repercussions will likely come in some form of political and economic isolation and estrangement and possibly an increase in negative worldwide popular opinion. Certainly it will prompt some former Soviet states to consider distancing themselves from Russia and furthering ties with other nations and organizations outside of Putin’s sphere like the U.S., China, the EU and NATO. It may even revive efforts by some East European nations to revive plans for their own mutual defense organization to provide their own defensive buffer zones in case of NATO or EU abandonment.

Though Putin himself may care less about such things these repercussions could play significantly into the global political dynamic. For example, China (despite their occupation of Tibet) is a nation that has staunchly staid by its position that all national boundaries and territorial integrity should be inviolate. For Russia to so blatantly have a hand in Crimea via military force may prompt the Chinese to impose economic and political sanctions that would stifle efforts to improve Sino-Russian relations on a host of territorial, economic, and political issues.

For Ukraine, they must decide whether Crimea is worth the effort of trying to oust the Russians via political maneuvering as they would likely not be able to withstand a military conflict with Russia without EU, US, and/or NATO support. Given that Crimea was transferred to Ukrainian control in 1954 from Russia some Ukrainians might be happy to shed off the pro-Russian region. For others, even Russians living in Ukraine it will be a matter of pride to not allow Putin’s military aggression to go unanswered.

For Putin, he has effectively crushed his own efforts to improve Russia’s standing in the world by interfering in such a knee jerk reaction. As one of my Russian associates put it Putin was “interfering too soon”, by which he meant events in Crimea and Ukraine did warrant the disproportionate Russian response and Putin should have waited for a “legitimate reason to invade” (per the same Russian associate). Putin’s action may play well to the blind nationalists and imperialists in Russia but it doesn’t address the nation’s ongoing socio-economic and political problems while likely harming economic and investments meant to address Russia’s woes.

For now, the region is tense but generally calm. It’s now a matter of how each side approaches the events in Ukraine, hopefully with a mind towards not repeating the mistakes of history (i.e. Sudetenland 1938), Russia returning to pre-crisis military deployments and Ukrainian territorial integrity reinstituted.